The Anchal Project Is Transforming Lives


“We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.” — Herman Melville

What do you get when you take a design student, a love for India, and a passion for social good? You get the Anchal Project – a project where a thousand fibers are able to connect us with a world where those connections may have been frayed or damaged.

The Anchal Project was created to provide alternative careers in textiles to commercial sex workers living in India. It is designed to help those who have been victimized and marginalized by their culture and community and provide them with a revenue-driven social venture that addresses human suffering and offers a real, substantial economic alternative.

The Anchal Project partners with nongovernmental organizations in India and offers quilts, scarves, and other products made in the “kantha” style. Employing these women not only creates an opportunity to weave a new life path economically, but also helps the women rediscover their self-worth, potential, and creative selves.

I only learned by chance about the work Colleen Clines–co-founder and executive director–is spearheading. Returning from New York and the Social Good Summit, where I had the chance to hear Nick Kristoff speak about his book Half the Sky, I picked up a new weekly magazine at my local coffee shop. The lead article was about “the new philanthropists” and Colleen was a featured interview. After reading the article I immediately contacted Colleen, and learned of her connection to Half the Sky via the Didi Connection. When we met for the first time, I thought of all the threads of this particular tapestry that now connect Colleen and I together, and as a result I have become an Anchal Advocate. Recently Colleen and I discussed this initiative as well as her plans for 2013 (which include a month long trip to India in January).

Like the scarves these women make from discarded saris, we all have an opportunity to help transform lives

In the work that I do as an advocate, I rarely have a chance to work one on one with the people behind the cause I support. Certainly social media and networking have made it possible for us to be in frequent communication and to share with others what campaign is currently taking place. But Colleen and I are are very aware that it is the personal connection that can create the greatest impact.

So, you may be a champion of a cause that is personal to you. I have several (Shot@Life, KaBOOM!, and RESULTS) and continually post and tweet about the actions and activities I engage in regarding those causes. What Colleen and I agreed upon was that even if only one or two people join you in supporting your cause that’s one or two more people advocating for your cause than you had before, and they may know one or two others… and it eventually turns out that we are all connected with “sympathetic threads.”

To me, much of this conversation about giving back to others is especially resonant around this holiday time. It makes one wonder about the true meaning of the season. And while I won’t say no to the gift of another book (How to Change the World by David Bornstein looks like a good addition to my library) or even another scarf (and I added one from Anchal Project to my gift list this year), to me the holiday season is really is about asking yourself, just like Colleen did, “What is my passion and how can I turn that passion into sustainable change?”

Being socially good isn’t something you should have to think twice about, it should be woven into the very fabric of your daily life.

One Response to “The Anchal Project Is Transforming Lives”

  1. I love the Anchal project and have been following them since I bought my first tiny moleskin Anchal Project notebook at the RISD sale in Providence years ago. It is thrilling for me to watch them build such a successful humanitarian project. Thanks for writing about it!

    Elizabeth Atalay

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